Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Yargh! The Internet is Down! (What next?)

Cross-posted to maupinhouse.com

We’ve all been there- we’ve put together a lesson where we take our kids to the computer lab and all of a sudden student hands (and voices) start shooting up and the worst four words you’ll hear that day start to echo off the concrete- “The Internet is Down!” or “My computer’s not working!”

I’m here to tell you not to panic and give you some ideas for productive/fun things you can do with your students when the Internet comes crashing down. In fact, the whole reason this post is being written is because this situation is exactly what happened at my school today.The Internet came crashing down in the middle of the day and stayed down for the rest of the afternoon. Across the building, varying waves of panic and discomfort spread. I’m proud to say that the teachers I work with handled it with a great amount of flexibility and patience (go JN Fries!).

I was supposed to write this post about the National Educational Technology Plan (NETP) that was just released, but after today’s events I decided to shift direction (stay tuned next week for more info on the NETP). In my office, I found myself reflecting on what I’ve done before when the Internet has gone down with a bunch of students in a lab. I figured I’d give some ideas I’ve used in the past and will surely have to rely on in the future.

  • Do some drawing! PC's have a drawing program installed on every machine, MS Paint. On a Mac, there is no preloaded drawing program but there are two free options that schools can install- Paintbrush (download here) and Tuxpaint (download here). Have students open up a drawing program and create a picture related to the content of the day. They could draw a flag that represents a fictional country in the region you are studying (or where the novel you are reading is set). Students could try to draw a character from a novel they are reading and explain why they connect with that character and how the author worked to make that character relatable to the reader. Students could create a logo, a family shield, or a representation of a math concept such as fractions. Once students are done creating, allow them to walk around and see each other’s creations (a makeshift art gallery opening!).
  • Allow students to get into partners and create a presentation in Powerpoint or a brochure in MS Publisher.
  • Many monitors now have microphones attached to them. If the ones in your lab do, have students work together to create podcasts relating to the content you were hoping to work on. They could come up with interview questions and interview each other. Or, they could roleplay an interview with a character or actual person that is being studied (interview Abe Lincoln, characters from Twilight, or if you’re really creative have them imagine they are inanimate objects such as a tectonic plate or Pluto).
  • Allow students to explore the other programs on the computer. Most of the time, when kids are in the computer lab their time is highly scheduled/regulated. Break that rule by giving them some time to simply open whatever they want on the computer and keep a short log of what they discover. Around the midpoint of class, have students share some of the programs they found that were interesting so that the other students can take a look at those too.
  • Have kids create a revolving story. Ask each student to open up a word processing program and start a story- just two to three sentences is plenty. This story can be completely silly or related to content. Next, every three minutes have students stand up and move to the computer to their left. Before they finish the sentence that was just interrupted, have them change the font color so you can track where each change was made. Keep revolving around and watch the stories grow and evolve! At the end of the period, pull out and display some good examples.

So there you go- a few ideas for things you can do in a lab if you’re ever caught, stuck with the Internet going down. Just remember- don’t panic or get too upset. Like everything else in teaching, roll with the punches and have fun with it!

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